Acting EM leads GSDM entourage to Msunduzi Library in KZN

IMG_2473THE community from Gert Sibande District Municipality, which has been struggling to go to the nearest libraries or even find books that will help them do research, should not worry anymore.

The District’s ambition is to follow on the footsteps of one of the best and oldest libraries in the country, Bessie Head library which is in Msunduzi Municipality, in Pietermaritzburg. The institution, which at some stage was known as the Natal Society Library, was founded 155 years ago.

On March 10, the District’s Acting Executive Mayor Clr Tunu Agnes Mnisi, and MMCs, Clr Busisiwe Sekhonde, MMC Clr Joshua Nkosi, former Msunduzi Executive Mayor Rob Haswell, who is now under GSDM employ and Municipal Manager Mbuleleni Ambrose Ngcobo went on a fact finding mission to KwaZulu-Natal capital.

The reason for the trip was to see how best GSDM can follow on the example of Bessie Head library for the mooted move to open the Gert Sibande District Municipality Project Library in a few months’ time.

With the library within the GSDM office building being well-furnished with study desks, bookcases and computers, it was decided by the municipality that it can be an invaluable asset to tertiary students and educators. What is needed is to stock the library with a comprehensive collection of reference and subject books, suitable for project work, and to connect our library with other libraries, and spheres of government.

Bessie Head library is funded by KZN Government.

Jan Hattingh, Chief Director: Local Government Budget Analysis in the National Treasury recommended that the GSDM take note of and visit the Bessie Head Library developed by the Msunduzi Municipality in Pietermaritzburg.

A person needs to be appointed on part-time basis to undertake the following:

  • · Identifying and sourcing a comprehensive collection of reference and subject books;
  • · Identifying and sourcing a limited but good collection of general library books;
  • · Advising on the most useful IT connections ;
  • · Applying for funding for the above; from national & provincial government, and private sector social responsibility sources
  • ·

In addition the GSDM library, there must a photocopier, a colour printer and a laminator for membership cards.

During the visit to the Bessie Head Library, we identified a fact that the library will used by as an example to make the GSDM reference library. Firstly, it can be used by tertiary institutions as an Adult Reference Library and Free Lending Library.

The Sections of Bessie Head library are: Adult Lending Library, American Corner, Music Library, Children’s Lending Library, Internet Café, Adult Reference Library and the Periodicals Department.

Bessie Head library has an Internet Café which is used for free by registered members. The computers do not have social networks like Facebook, Twitter and You Tube which will not benefit the library users or distract other patrons.

The library opens from Monday to Saturday and is the busiest days are Saturday mornings. High school children start queuing at the library door from 6am to do their research and assignments. The library caters mostly for children from the nearby townships and those from disadvantaged background. The doors officially open from 8:30am.

The Periodicals Department offers the community a wealth of current and historical information. Every year, 4 000 periodicals and newspapers are received by the department. The Bessie Head Library is the only library in South Africa with a collection of newspapers that have great historical value like The Witness (1852-current), Natal Mercury (1846-current) which is today known as The Mercury, Ilanga Lase Natal (1903-current), today it is known as Ilanga and the Indian Opinion.

The Reference Library issues between 285 and 500 books per day. Patrons are sometimes forced to queue because of lack of seating. Presently there are 36 tables and 144 seats. The library caters for universities, researchers and students from University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of South Africa (Unisa), Varsity College, Durban University of Technology, FET Colleges and other institutions.

It does not cater only for students and people from around Pietermaritzburg, but also for people as far as Durban and other researchers from around the world.

A law student from Unisa that we interviewed said the library has been helpful to him. He was looking for a law book at different libraries in Durban but to no avail. First he checked for it in Umhlanga, Phoenix, Durban City Library and KwaMashu and only found it at Bessie Head Library in Msunduzi.

The Children’s Reference Library is good for children to be taught to learn and study and the tender age. It becomes easier for them to get used to reading from early age.

Acting Executive Mayor Clr. Tunu Agnes Mnisi said the move to open the GSDM reference library will help students and teenagers to focus on school work and not roam the streets. “As soon as we arrived at the library, there were many children in school uniform who are here to get knowledge and this will help to make our children more knowledgeable,” said Clr. Mnisi.

The challenges that are faced by Bessie Head library include: toilets being damaged and vandalized, other sections of the library being vandalized, lights are pulled out, pages torn out, books stolen and taps. The officials at the library believe that CCTV cameras would solve these problems

happening from time to time.

On average, 28 000 books are issued per month and they have more than 100 000 visitor per month. Of this number, 95 000 visitors reside in the Msunduzi area. They also have eight branches and do house travels and the library is subsidized by KwaZulu-Natal Province.

Officials from Msunduzi Municipality and librarians took the Gert Sibande District Municipality entourage through the tour of the library and also to the council offices.

With these huge numbers of people visiting Bessie Head library, it is envisaged that the Project Library at the GSDM building will help high school children to focus on doing their school work instead of going astray. Even students from institutions of higher learning will become regular visitors when the library doors are finally opened.

By: ZAKHELE SHIBA

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